Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin (6) celebrates with teammates Jeff Carter (77) , Dustin Brown (23) , Drew Doughty (8) and Tyler Toffoli (73) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)
Kings dominate, push Blackhawks to the brink
LOS ANGELES -- In the past, the Chicago Blackhawks have been hesitant to throw around the term "must-win," but captain Jonathan Toews uttered it twice not long before the puck was dropped Monday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
"It's right there in front of us," Toews said. "We know it's a must-win."
And that would make Game 5 ...?
The Blackhawks have been pushed to the brink in their quest for a second consecutive Stanley Cup after they were sliced, diced and minced by the Kings 5-2 at the Staples Center. Los Angeles dominated in all facets and holds a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that will continue with Game 5 on Wednesday night at the United Center.
"We're still alive in this series," Toews said. "No time to feel sorry for ourselves. Teams have come back from this situation. Even this group. That belief and that confidence have to be there. We just have to go do it."
The Kings raced to a 4-0 lead before the Blackhawks knew what hit them and cruised to the win.
Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty each had a goal and an assist, Marian Gaborik, Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson also scored and Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar each added two assists to provide plenty of offensive support for goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Kings consistently got behind the Blackhawks defense to set up shop in front of Corey Crawford and the goalie was unable to see _ or stop _ the onslaught. Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad had goals for the Blackhawks, but they were never in it as the Kings were better five-on-five, on special teams and in the faceoff circle.
Special teams continued to plague the Blackhawks and had a big role in the Kings' first-period outburst. After failing on two power-play chances, the Blackhawks found themselves down a man after Marian Hossa was called for goaltending interference and Muzzin scored to make it 1-0, The defenseman took a pass from Doughty, moved into the high slot and rifled a wrist shot past Crawford to the glove side. The Blackhawks goalie had no chance as Jeff Carter got behind the defense and parked in the crease to provide the screen.
The Blackhawks' inability to move the Kings from out in front of Crawford led to another goal as Kopitar stripped Duncan Keith of the puck and sent it into the crease, where Gaborik redirected it past Crawford before being drilled to the ice by Brent Seabrook.
A roughing penalty by Patrick Sharp again put the Kings on the power play and they cashed in when Muzzin sent the puck to Justin Williams, whose one-touch pass found Brown all alone in front and Los Angeles' captain fired it in to give the Kings three goals on six shots.
In the second, the King extended the lead to four when Doughty's long shot from the point appeared to deflect off the stick of Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg floated past Crawford.
Not long after, the Blackhawks finally stopped the bleeding when Saad flipped a backhander over Quick's shoulder to make it 4-1.
That was the margin headed into the third period, and midway through, Bickell made things interesting. After a scramble in front of the Kings' goal, the puck slid into the low slot and Bickell sent a backhander past Quick to keep the Blackhawks alive.
Pearson closed the scoring with an empty-net goal.
After the game, the Blackhawks invoked the memory of rallying from a 3-1 deficit against the Red Wings during their run to the Cup last season.
"We were in the same position last year," Patrick Kane said. "You can look back at that and say, 'We came out and were successful so why can't we do it again?' It's tough with the position we're in right now, but at the same time we still feel good about our team in here and we all know we've done it before. You have to have that confidence of trying to win the next game and see what happens."